Project Ashes: New podcast shows how England prepared for Australia
|Episodes November 16, 19, 23, 26, 30 and December 3 – listen to BBC Sounds or download from your usual podcast provider|
Now that the T20 Men’s World Cup is over, England are firmly focused on a series of five Test Ashes in Australia, which starts in Brisbane on December 8.
Players won’t need to be reminded of what’s to come – it’s been on everyone’s mind for the past two years.
The time, energy and resources it takes to plan an Ashes series eclipses everything else in English cricket, and in an attempt to tell part of that story, we’ve produced a six-part podcast series called Project Ashes. .
We spoke to people involved in the decisions on and off the pitch, and to many English players themselves.
One of those we spoke to was quick pitcher Olly Stone. He couldn’t wait to play, and he was fine, but then he was excluded with back stress fracture… it was a pretty sad interview.
I also interviewed Mark Wood – he went from one of three, alongside Stone and Jofra Archer, to the only England team bowler who can play at a consistently high pace … a key attribute and necessary when touring Australia where the throws are harder and more bouncy.
It is interesting to chat with him, and we are also joined by his wife Sarah.
Nutritionist Emma Gardner, Medical Services Manager Ben Langley, and Strength and Conditioning Manager Rob Ahmun are all featured in the series.
It was really interesting to learn about the nutrition of the players. Emma was very candid about her contribution and revealed that in some hotels she had to eat breakfast first and clear part of the buffet.
She doesn’t rule with an iron bar, she’s not like a matron in a hospital who comes and keeps everyone in order but she has to keep an eye on what these young men are eating.
I had a really good conversation with the performance director Mo Bobat – he really is the planner and the architect.
He was the one who came up with the idea of rest and rotation for the players – it was a controversial tool because the players didn’t like it. I have to admit that I wouldn’t have liked that as a player either, because you want to play.
Whether good or bad, it’s just interesting to note all those decisions that were made – often months in advance – just for the sake of helping England bring back that infamous little urn.
The most interesting thing I have learned is that England have chosen to take their Lions team to Australia as well, and the youngsters are the opponents of the senior team before the first test.
I assumed it was because they couldn’t travel and play state matches, but that clearly reflects how England felt about the quality of the warm-up matches on previous tours.
I expect it to be very competitive as there will be Lions looking to make a name for themselves and maybe find their way into the main squad if they play really well – England don’t. is not related to things.
I have spoken to many players over the past year including Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan. I interviewed Captain Joe Root in January when the team was in Sri Lanka and then over the last few weeks.
I was quite surprised that in January he had more or less the team he would have in mind, but of course you lose people along the way. They lost key players and staff so the adjustments that had to be made were interesting.
It was a good experience to have drawn everything from January to November, and to have seen and heard a bit of what is going on behind the scenes.
I hope you enjoy the podcast as well and that it whets your appetite for England’s latest mission.
Hear bullet-by-bullet commentary from The Ashes on BBC Sounds, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website and app from December 8.
Jonathan Agnew was talking to Callum Matthews of BBC Sport.